Four tips for when you’re the flex point in your family
If you’re the default parent in your family – the one responsible for the emotional, physical and logistical needs of your children then flexibility is vital:
- The call from school to say your child is unwell, so you have to flex your plans to collect them.
- The million and one questions from your child require you to flex your thinking at the moment to answer them.
- Your child calls you in the middle of the night, demanding you flex from sleep mode to mothering mode in a blink of an eye.
For most families, it’s still the mother that is the flex point. Eve Rodsky calls this the ‘she-fault’ parent. When traditional gender roles play out in the home.
This often occurs even if you work full-time and even if you’re the primary earner in your household.
When you’re the flex point in your family, it requires a considerable amount of flexibility.
The sudden shifting between roles requires
- Physical flexibility,
- Psychological flexibility,
- Emotional flexibility
I remember when my daughter was three years old, she went through a beautiful but frustrating stage.
Every morning as we walked out the door, she would stroke and smell every flower in our garden. And I mean *every* *single* flower.
When she first started doing this, I thought it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.
Watching her marvel at nature and be in the moment with the beauty of the flowers. But it quickly lost its appeal! Because it started to show me how I struggle to be in the moment like her.
This flower-stroking situation happened as we were leaving the house to drop my son at school and my daughter at the childminder before starting work.
Like most mums, this time of day was a carefully orchestrated morning routine, and when I hadn’t built in contingency time for the flower stroking, it felt like an unwelcome diversion.
It’s because the flower stroking needed me to be flexible.
Not only is that more of a challenge with my personality type – in MBTI, I’m a ‘Judging’ rather than ‘Perceiving’ mother.
But the more under pressure I feel, the more rigid my approach becomes.
In our family, I’m the flex point.
This is partly a conscious choice by me. But, if I’m honest, partly because of society’s expectations and conditioning.
So when our children are ill, I’m the one who usually flexes in response.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, I have had to flex A LOT.
At times it felt like I’d had whiplash.
Unjuggling the working mum juggle, to then re-juggle it.
Rearranging client meetings when the call from school comes in to say my child had been sick….. or, as was once the case, broke his leg!
That additional load of re-organising stuff is hard, especially when you’re already sleep-deprived and at your limit.
And here lies the challenge for so many working mums. If you’re career driven and the flex-point for your family, you can sometimes feel like you’re being ripped in two (or more) parts.
Your head wants to be focused on your work.
But your heart wants to be there for your loved ones.
Here are four strategies that really help me when I’m in this place:
1.Remember to stay flexible.
Being able to flex my thinking and approach. The more I feel under pressure, the more rigid I can become. This limits my ability to adapt appropriately in the moment.
2. Getting clear on what matters most
Knowing which balls to drop (the ones that bounce) and which to hold onto (the ones that don’t!). Some balls in life are glass and will shatter when dropped and some are rubber and will bounce back.
3. Giving myself grace
In these moments, giving myself the self-compassion and grace I would give others is essential. Not listening to my inner superwoman but instead listening to my inner wise woman who can give me the gift of perspective and kindness.
4. Remembering it takes a village
Having a fantastic village of people who help me to manage the flex. Being willing to ask for help and being able to accept it graciously. People who remind me I’m doing great even when it doesn’t feel like it.
If you’re the flex point in your family – what helps you when life demands that you flex more than feels comfortable?
I’d love to hear, so leave a comment and let me know.